“Assad has undertaken democratic reforms”
We must not forget that Assad was responsible for launching democratic reforms. He abolished the state of emergency [in a bid to appease opposition factions, the government adopted a series of reforms in April 2011 that brought an end to the state of emergency, abolished the Supreme State Security Court and implemented a new constitution based on political pluralism (February 26, 2012)].I voted democratically for his reelection [Assad was reelected president in May, 2007 with 97.62 percent of the vote. The election was widely believed to be fraudulent] and for the new constitution. Should the opposition really have the right to remove an elected president?We cannot blame Assad for all of Syria’s problems. Mistakes are often made by local officials, as the president cannot be everywhere at once. Remember that the crisis started in March, 2011 in Deraa. Government forces had opened fire on protesters who were advocating the release of several teenagers that had been arrested for spray painting slogans of the Egyptian Revolution. That is what originally set things off. But we forget that the president dismissed and sanctioned the governor of Derra, Faisal Kalthoum, who was responsible for imprisoning the teenagers and opening fire on protesters. The president even made an effort to address the issue by meeting with Derra’s clan chiefs.We are all against corruption and bureaucracy, and in favour of greater liberties in Syria. But we do not want these people, who are massacring the Syrian people in the name of freedom. The president has already tried to put in place exactly these kind of reforms [faced with mounting tensions, Assad announced in February of last year plans to reduce taxes, create 67,000 government jobs, and his intention to fire hundreds of civil servants accused of corruption].
“I prefer Assad to the jihadists”
I support Bashar al-Assad because I am against the opposition. The only chance this country has of getting out of this crisis is if the opposition stops using violence and takes a seat at the negotiation table without any preconditions [the Syrian National Council, an opposition organisation, has said they will only enter negotiations if Assad quits power]. I am not opposed to a transfer of power, but it can’t happen without Assad. He is the only one capable of finding a solution.Those who are fighting the regime did not take up arms to fight for democracy, they are simply trying to take over power. The Free Syrian Army is made up of jihadist Salafists, many of whom have come from abroad to wreak havoc in our country.“I worry when I look at what is going on in countries that have recently had revolutions”Personally, when I look at what is going on in countries where revolutions have spurred regime change, like in Tunisia where Salafists are now trying to impose their law through violence, I find the prospect of an opposition victory in Syria is worrisome.Jaramana, where I live [about 10 kilometers or six miles outside the capital Damascus], was the calmest city in Syria until three days ago, when a car bomb exploded near a funeral convoy. Here, different communities – Christians, Sunnis, Alawites, Druze – have always lived in complete harmony. I am Shiitte, and my wife is Christian. Our peaceful coexistence, however, is now under threat. I doubt that the jihadists will adhere to democratic values and from attacking Syrians with different beliefs if they succeed in overthrowing the government.